This commentary is in response to a letter in the March 5, 2014, Missourian titled “Says City Has Nothing to Offer.” The author, Cynthia Westhoelter, has a selective memory.
1. Where do you shop?
2. Where do you get health care?
3. Where do you go to use parks?
4. Where do you go to use the library?
5. Where do you go to church?
6. Where do you go to the Town and Country Fair?
7. Where do you go to school?
8. Where do you get your money for the Special Road District?
9. Where do you get your money for law enforcement?
10. Where do you get your money for county roads?
11. Where do you get your money for fire protection?
12. Where do you go for recreation such as movies, dining, parties, weddings?
13. Where do you gain access to the Missouri River?
14. Where do you go to work — jobs?
14. Where do you receive sewer service? Washington has a state-of-the-art treatment plant.
The city provides tax dollars and numerous services to the unincorporated proposed annexed areas.
Washington is a community. It’s not just the city limits. For Washington to grow and continue to prosper, it needs to expand its boundaries in a reasonable manner. Cities need to be progressive. It needs controlled growth. There are valid reasons for annexing areas to the city. One of the reasons Washington has been successful is the people in the area, leaders, citizens, business people, have put the interests of the community ahead of their personal interests.
It is time for the citizens to give overwhelming support to the annexation plan put forward by the city’s planning and zoning board and city council and act on the annexation plan.
For numerous years, the past 30-40, she has used the city parks to walk her dogs. The county has no parks. She also mentioned the good roads. Her good road, South Point Road, is in the Special Road District. In fact, in 2013 alone, the residents of Washington paid almost 92 percent of the taxes ($384,896) that fund the Special Road District. The unincorporated areas paid only 8.3 percent ($34,772). Imagine what $32,272 could pay for. Without Washington tax dollars, Special Road District roads would probably be gravel, and you could not afford snow removal.
The county does have an excellent sheriff’s department. No one will deny that point, but no matter how good, its response time to calls is nowhere close to Washington’s Police Department for the South Point area or most of the outskirts of the city. Response time is a matter of geography. Also the cost of the sheriff’s department is mainly paid for from sales taxes from the cities in the county. City residents receive few services in return.
These areas do not have fire protection. The city of Washington’s Volunteer Fire Department provides it free of charge. The rural dues are voluntary. In comparison, Boles and Pacific Fire districts pay 80-87 cents per $100 assessed valuation in fire taxes to their fire district. The average home would pay about $400 a year. Fire protection is diminished significantly only because of the diminished water flow unincorporated areas are provided. Compared to the city of Washington’s water and sewer systems, the unincorporated areas pale in comparison.
The city of Washington has a library that is outstanding. Sixty percent of the patrons who use the library are members of Scenic Regional and pay no taxes to support the Washington Library. The cost to operate the Washington Library in 2013 was $494,135. Scenic Regional does contribute some technology and other services, plus has a reciprocal borrowing agreement with the Washington Library that netted about $40,000 in 2013. If 60 percent or more of the people use the library, it would appear that Scenic Regional should fund 60 percent of the operating cost. Remember, the operating cost does not include the building and the furniture ($2-4 million).
With the new 10-cent tax, Scenic Regional will take $1,000,000 from the Washington School District in library taxes. They do not provide a library within the Washington School District. Over $300,000 will come directly from the city of Washington.
The Washington Library District was frozen by a law passed in 1965 that fixed the district at 1965 city limit boundaries. Everyone living outside the 1965 boundaries pays their taxes to Scenic Regional Library.
My message — read more, check out more books. Each family should read a minimum of four books a week to 208 books per year. This would allow you to do your part in supporting the Washington Library. Ask the librarian how many books, magazines, and materials you can check out at one time. Watch less TV — read more. Each item checked out by a noncitizen patron at present nets 35 cents per item.
The city is in a position to provide water and sewer services to annexation areas. It is necessary and logical for the city to grow its boundaries. We need to do what’s best for the entire community and be knowledgeable and realistic about who is paying for needed services and who are simply free loading.
As a former city councilman (1994-98), I was opposed to the city’s annexation proposal when the city went to the voters and tried to double the size of the city. From a purely planning position it had merit, but at the time the city could not provide services to these areas. The plan was too ambitious.
As mayor from 2002-2010, the city tried to get areas annexed by voluntary annexation. This met with some success, but there comes a time when the citizens of the area need to take a vote on a reasonable annexation proposal. The time is now.
I think Washington residents need to take a good look at the plan. There is nothing wrong with annexed residents paying city taxes. They will get additional services and also pay for services they have been receiving for free. Mrs. Westhoelter is incorrect when she implies that voluntary annexation worked for the last 30 years. We also had involuntary annexation that also worked in the late 1980s.
The citizens of Washington need to listen to the concerns of the annexed areas but in the final analysis, we need to do what is in the best interest of the city of Washington and the community. If the annexation plan is reasonable and meets the needs of the city, voters need to give it overwhelming support at the ballot box.